Former Sunderland and Middlesbrough favourite Julio Arca has revealed Gareth Southgate's demeanour going into tonight's epic World Cup semi-final is nothing new as the England boss exuded the same calm approach to football when in charge of the Teessiders.
Arca was Southgate's first signing when he became Middlesbrough manager back in 2001. In an interview with Spanish-speaking publication PubliMetro, the midfielder who hung up his boots earlier this year says the England boss may have refined his tactical expertise in the intervening years, but he's never changed his approach to his players:
He was always a very calm person. Obviously, with the passing of the years, he matured as a tactician and got to where he is now. As he is seen on television, is as he was before.
He tries to stay calm whatever the outcome. His philosophy is to be calm, patient, not to lose his head, as he could have done against Colombia, when they tried to get England out of the game through fouls or by wasting time.
Arca played a total of 160 games for Middlesbrough and has always been a popular figure both on Teesside and Wearside. The Argentinian believes Southgate's belief in his players is why England have performed so well in this year's World Cup and that the squad selection suits the manager's preferred style of play to perfection.
He was questioned when he made his choice of 23 for the World Cup, because he brought very young players, but he is proving that there is no need to take so many experienced, more for the style of play in England, to press, to play fast . The players are playing and following their plans to a measure, and it is seen that the machine is working as the coach wants.
But Arca believes Southgate displayed little during his spell at the Riverside to suggest he would go on to be on the brink of making history as coach of England.
He was a coach like others, at that time there were no special things there. Yes he would talk to all the players, and was friendly, he made you feel very comfortable, more than anything because he went from being a player to Middlesbrough coach. It was a bit of a complicated experience for him, because he had to make decisions with players who played alongside him months ago, but we played well, although we had the bad luck to descend with a very good team.
Southgate spent five years as a player with Middlesbrough, making over 160 appearances. His final game as a professional came in the 2006 UEFA Cup final which Boro lost to Sevilla.